Image-conscious China appoints new global propaganda czar

China's increasingly image-conscious government has appointed a trusted member of the ruling Communist Party to head up its international propaganda operation.

Former top internet regulator Xu Lin will be in charge of efforts to portray China as a progressive force for good in the world at a time when it's facing criticism over its allegedly unfair trading practices, human rights abuses and militarization of island claims in the South China Sea.

Xu's appointment to the position of head of the Cabinet-level State Council Information Office was announced by state media outlets on Tuesday.

Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, Beijing has sought to draw a contrast with his administration by emphasizing its role in promoting free trade and addressing global issues such as climate change. Critics say that contradicts China's roles as the most restricted major economy and a leading polluter.

Chinese President and party leader Xi Jinping has also gone to lengths to promote his trademark, trillion-dollar "Belt and Road" initiative that seeks to link China with other parts of Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond through transport and infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile, China's entirely state-controlled media has been aggressively expanding overseas in hopes of countering unflattering images of the country and promoting Beijing's take on global political, economic and cultural matters.

Xu, 55, had earlier been brought in to enforce China's strict regulations on the internet after predecessor Lu Wei was ousted in a corruption scandal.